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A bunch of wines shared with family, Provocative Plum Chutney, and Roast Shoulder with Festive Vegetables

The start of Succot was surrounded with family in Chicago and I had the chance to cook twice; to boot! I made a rolled shoulder roast with festive vegetables, much like we did at home on Rosh Hashanah for the first meal. For the other meal, my nephew asked me to make our now patented Black Pepper Seared Salmon. To be honest, I was greatly honored to be asked by my nephew, but I am always terrified to cook in my sister-in-law’s house. She is such a wonderful cook and it is intimidating to say the least, but it is a ton of fun to cook with the family. To boot this time, my wife was there to lend a hand, and of course my brother (der Bruder) was there to lend his ever quick wit and helpful advice, including the name of the chutney and his usual fascination with figs! It was a great ball and it came out ok, but it was a truly team effort!

When making the seared cracked peppercorn salmon, we made two changes. One I used more sesame instead of more peppercorns, in order to lower the heat, which helped a bit. Also, we used a peppercorn mixture of white and black, which was easier to crack by beating on it, which is a long story in and of itself. Either way, when searing the salmon, the cracked white pepper gave off this almost rancid smell, that was not so nice. I have never smelled that particular “aroma” before, so maybe this was the first time I seared anything with cracked white pepper on it. Anyway, if anyone knows about this particular issue/subject, I would greatly appreciate it. Once the fish cooled down, the smell was greatly muted, but still gave off a bit of a bad smell, which was the only real stain on this wonderful team effort.

The last time we made this chutney/salmon combo, we used mango as the core sweetness. This time we used peeled black plums, which were very sweet indeed. This time we again started with browned white onions, along with a couple of sweet peppers as the initial base. Then we moved to ripe peeled black plums to boost the sweetness, brightness, and ripeness of the dish. The garlic was a god send, and minced to perfection by my brother’s wife. Some diced figs and the moscato to finish, and we had another hit! The salmon came out great, even though we had no oven to finish in. Again, my brother’s wife came to the rescue, she skinned the fish, and we seared both sides, which added nice color and flavor, and allowed the fish to cook through in the pan. The fish was a lovely fatty salmon; please make sure to never try searing and finishing the salmon, unless it has enough innate fat in it.

Provocative Plum Chutney
2 or 3 sweet onions
2 sweet peppers diced
5 ripe peeled black plums cubed
Few cloves of crushed garlic
5 small dried figs diced
200 ml of moscato

The wines were enjoyed in this order throughout the meals at my family, the notes follow below:

2004 Tzora Neve Ilan - Score: B++
The nose on this garnet leaning towards brown colored wine is hopping with raspberry, blackberry, plum, red fruit, crushed herbs, mint, coffee, oak, and graphite/mineral. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine was nice but lacked concentration or layers. The black fruit and tannin meld over time to become full in the mouth, along with raspberry, blackberry, plum, and slight minerality. The mid palate is balanced and acidic with more tannin, oak, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with oak, plum, black fruit, coffee, and a nice dollop of vanilla that lingers on the palate. The wine is throwing sediment that showed in the glass and on the sides of the bottle.

2005 Monte Olivo Umbria Roso – Score: B to B+
We have tasted this before and each time we like it, but it has hit its high and ready to drink now, as the party is over. The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with dark plum, black cherry, and raspberry to start, but shows black fruit later, with black pepper, loamy dirt, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is nice but it and the rest of the wine fades quickly. It starts with rich black plum, dirt, black cherry, and raspberry. The mid palate is balanced with light complexity of black pepper, acid, oak, and nice tannin. The finish is medium long and spicy with black pepper, tobacco, plum, and vanilla. Drink up, no flaws but fading quickly.

2006 Casa Da Corca Reserve (Douro) – Score: B+ to A-
This wine was the last one we tasted over the weekend and it may well be the best. I was expecting NOTHING when buying this wine. What I got was a fun wine with a bit of complexity and a wine that showed itself like a four gates merlot for a bit of time. That said it is now at its peak and does not last more than a few hours, open it and watch it change in the glass. It is throwing a fair amount of sediment so watch for it. It is not showing age, so the sediment is harmless.
The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.

2006 Rothberg Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Winemakers Reserve - Score: B- to B
Wow what a true waste of a nice wine. I cannot tell you what made the wine so acidic and off balance in the front. At first I thought it was just very bright fruit, but that was quickly proven incorrect. The fruit was initially asleep but once the fruit came out and then relaxed, the acidic front stayed on, almost to the point of being spoiled or corked. That said, the rest of the wine was very nice, but just from an academic point of view. The mevushal process on this wine is not the suspect, none of the flavors were cooked in any way. The nose on this dark ruby colored wine has blackberry, plum, fig, sweet oak, chocolate, smoky notes, and black pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine was a sleep for some time. Once the mouth woke up, it started with a blast of acid and followed through with sweet oak, blackberry, and plum. At one point in time, if the wine had not exhibited the initial blast of acid, I would have sworn it was a bottle of Hagafen Merlot. The mid palate has oak, more acid, chocolate, and integrated tannin. The finish is long with chocolate, black pepper, sweet oak, acid, tobacco, plum, and vanilla. It would have been such a nice wine if not for the crazy acidic front a true shame. Still it is a lighter wine that would have been expected, but would have been nice none the less, given its complexity, but alas the front killed it. The wine is throwing sediment as well, but that was not a flaw in the wine.

Lasagna, Tomato Potato Soup, Four Gates Merlot, Chardonnay, and Umbria Rosso

This past week we threw a party for our friends whose daughter had just gotten married.  I made the meat lasagna that I have spoken of in previous postings.  My co-host made the tomato potato soup, and some wicked awesome braised mushrooms.  Some guests made a wonderful fresh salad with roasted nuts and assorted additions like palm harts and artichokes.  The founder and owner of Four Gates Winery came by and brought some real cool wines, while I brought an old bottle of 1997 Four Gates Merlot and a bottle of Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso.

The wines notes follow below:

Four Gates Merlot 2001 (Magnum) - Score: B
The nose on this bright garnet colored wine has aromas of oak, cranberry, blueberry, cloves, and cherry.  The mouth on this red to blue wine starts with cherry and flows into cranberry.  The mid palate is a classic Four Gates flavor profile of acid and oak.  The acidic core is the hallmark of all estate bottled Four Gates wines.  The finish is long with coffee, acid, oak, and vanilla.

Four Gates Merlot 1997 - Score: B+
The nose on this soft red to black colored wine is a rich and opulent aroma of chocolate, cherry, blackberry, and oak.  The mouth on this wine is full and mouth coating and is filled with chocolate, blackberry, and cherry.  The mid palate is oaky, with light acid, and integrating tannins.  The finish is a long and luscious walk down the oak boardwalk with a warm espresso and a shot of vanilla to boot.  This lovely wine has pushed past its peak and is time to drink up.

Four Gates Chardonnay 1999 - Score: B
The nose on this pale straw wine is packed with peach, guava, oak, and lemon.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fascinating in a way; it has notes of strawberry which is strange in a white wine, along with lemon, peach, and guava.  The mid palate is balanced and filled with sweet oak and has a nice acidic core.  The finish is long with acidity and sweet oak.

Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso 2005 – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet and orange haloed colored wine has aromas of chocolate, dirty earth, blackberry, and oak.  The mouth of this medium to full bodied wine is heavy with blackberry and cassis.  The mid palate is almost mouth puckering with not yet integrated tannins and acidity.  The finish is long and nourishing with acid, more tannin, cloves, tobacco, coffee, and a nice spicy closing.

Purim 2008

This Purim I drank wine with friends on Thursday night and at Friday lunch.  After all that, Shabbos was a nice break from wine.  Thursday night I did not take notes.  So these are more memory of what I tasted than actual facts.

Thursday Night:

Rothberg Cellars Pinotage 2004 – This wine exhibits classic Pinotage stylings with a bit of tannin and spicy oak.  The nose was flush with cherries and red fruit.  The mouth was medium bodied and fruity.  The finish was medium long and had a bit of spicy oak.  An OK attempt at a Pinotage – I liked the Welnerberg Pinotage 2005 more, but that is my take.

Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese 2005 - This wine is a classic fruit bomb, and a bit too much for my taste.  The saving grace was that it had enough oak to dull the fruit but it had a bit more tannin than I was expecting.  The tannins actually accentuated the fruit bomb – almost making it worse.  To that I will say that this wine has a chance to age a bit more and maybe calm down.  The fruit forwardness of the wine is evident from the nose – filled with cherries, cherries, and more cherries.  The mouth was medium – full bodied with sour cherry and briar.  The finish is very long with more sour cherry.

Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso 2005 – This wine was a real winner.  Huge nose and an awesome specimen.  For being a house wine this is a real winner.  The wine is reasonably priced to boot.  The wine has a wonderful nose of blackberry and tobacco.  The mouth on this full bodied wine was fruity but the tannins have yet to integrate, but the mouth coating wine will be better over time for sure.  The mouth is filled with blackberries and cassis, the finish is long and loaded with oak and tobacco.

Friday Lunch – with real notes:

Bashan Merlot Eitan 2005 - Score: B+
The nose on this mature garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, old socks, oak, vanilla, and sour cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice integrated tannins, vanilla, black fruit up front and then a medium finish that is filled with a spicy oak finish.

Bashan Cabernet Sauvignon Eitan 2005 – Score: A-
Notes still hold true to my tasting that we had in Israel in the Bashan Winery.

Mount Meroma Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 - Score: B-
This one was definitely passed its time.  It is a shame because it was ready to go about 5 years ago.  The crazy thing about this wine was 10 minutes after it was opened, it was gone.  Nothing left.  These notes are right when it was opened and seems to have been from its last gasps of life – if that :-).  The nose on this almost brown colored wine has light aromas of oak and red fruit.  The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine has integrated tannins, dirty socks, oak, and raspberry.  The finish was almost non-existent, but had hints of vanilla and mint.

Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Napa Valley 2002 - Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was packed with blackberry, cassis, figs, and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with well integrated tannins, than the blackberry, cassis, and sweet wood mingle together into a complex blend that is quite intriguing.  The finish is medium long with tobacco and sweet oak.

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